Text and Photography by Bruce Richardson
The role of tea in a healthy lifestyle was again highlighted at the recent International Scientific Symposium on Tea & Human Health in Washington, D.C., where researchers highlighted a portion of the nearly 1,000 tea and health clinical trials being conducted. Here are some findings that might interest tea lovers everywhere.
According to Dr. Rich Hursel from the University of Maastricht, “Consumption of tea throughout the day may lead to a 4.7 percent increase in energy expenditure.” He translated that increase as an average of 102 extra burned calories per day.
This is not a big increase, but you can see that the effect would be compounded to 350 calories if one substituted unsweetened tea for a daily sugary soft drink or a second glass of wine. Dr. Hursel did point out that decaffeinated tea is not as effective because caffeine plays a major role in this increased metabolic rate.
Dr. Lenore Arab, UCLA School of Medicine, has compiled results of nine international studies that showed that when the participants drank three or more cups of tea each day, strokes were reduced by an average of 21 percent. In another study, Dr. Arab pointed out, heart attacks among participants who drank three or more cups of tea per day decreased by 11 percent.
Dr. Claudio Ferri of the University L’Aquila in Italy echoed Dr. Arab’s findings. “Drinking black tea could lead to a reduction in strokes, heart attacks, and cardiovascular diseases,” he concluded.
Dr. Ferri produced one of the more intriguing presentations, which centered on a study of 38 people, half with hypertension and half without. The subjects were given a cup of black tea before ingesting a high-in-fat meal replicating “junk food.” Blood pressure would normally rise two or three points following such a meal; however, Dr. Ferri found that the addition of tea prevented the expected increase in blood pressure. “Black tea may induce a protective effect by not only reducing blood pressure but also reducing the negative action of the fat load on the arteries,” he concluded.
For centuries, tea drinkers have been aware of the beverage’s ability to keep us alert and focused as the workday wanes. We can now point to a published European clinical trial that found that tea drinkers showed more mental clarity and improved work performance than did participants given a placebo. “This positive effect may be due to the caffeine and L-theanine found in tea,” reported Suzanne Einöther, research scientist at Unilever in the Netherlands.
The effects of osteoporosis cannot be reversed; however, new research from Texas Tech University Health Services points to a positive relationship between green tea consumption and improved bone formation, muscle strength, and decreasing bone degradation. Scientists there believe bone mineral density improves with daily consumption of four to six cups of green tea.
A Prescription for Good Health
After attending several of these symposia over the past decade, I can offer these suggestions about incorporating tea into your prescription for good health:
• Drink four to six cups of both green and black teas every day, without sugar. The health effects of tea dissipate after six hours, so spread your tea consumption throughout the day.
• Make tea a part of your hydration routine. According to Tufts University Professor Jeffrey Blumenthal, “Contrary to popular belief, tea is not a diuretic. It’s time to put that myth behind us.”
• Make teatime part of your daily ritual. The act of making tea quiets a busy mind as the kettle makes us wait for the water to boil, the tea in the pot makes us wait for the full steep, and the tea in the cup makes us wait for the liquid to cool. It’s during these short periods of waiting that our hearts beat more slowly, and our minds become calmer. Tea’s 2,000-year-old recipe could be exactly what the doctor ordered.